The Gender Equality Law Center wishes all students a safe and healthy start to the 2018 school year. All students — whether they are beginning kindergarten or graduate school — should know that federal law protects them from discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment and assault, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the past week, the New York Times has published troubling reports about the Department of Education’s forthcoming rules interpreting Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Some of these rules would allegedly scale back protections for complainants, including substantially decreasing the number of investigations into complaints of sexual harassment, assault and rape, and limit the liability for schools.
As victims' rights advocates, GELC is concerned with how the proposed rules could come at a significant cost to women, girls and LGBTQ students. These individuals are overrepresented as victims of sexual harassment and violence, and statistics show that one in five women drop out of school as a result of the institutions' failure to investigate their claims of sexual violence.
In the face of this uncertainty, students who have been harassed or subjected to violence may feel discouraged about coming forward.
But all students and parents – and all professionals who work with children – should know that at this juncture, nothing has changed schools’ legal obligation under federal law to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and violence. Many students, including those who live in New York City, also have protections at the state and local level. This means that schools still have a duty to investigate complaints of sex discrimination and harassment. During and following an investigation, students may be entitled to various accommodations, including:
A no-contact order;
An escort between classes or on campus;
Postponing a test or exam;
Flexibility in completing a course despite absences;
Reimbursement for lost tuition or student loan interest; and
Post-disciplinary proceeding accommodations.
The Gender Equality Law Center is happy to speak with students or parents who believe their rights may have been violated under Title IX or other state and local civil rights laws.